Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haiti: six months later, the situation has not improved

By Wooldy Edson Louidor, Jesuit Refugee Service Haiti Advocacy Officer

(Port-au-Prince, Haiti) – Six months after the earthquake devastated Haiti on January 12, the situation in the country remains worrying. Despite the preparative and preventive efforts of UN agencies, international organisations, the Haitian authorities and other local actors to cope with the humanitarian crisis and other natural disasters, the hurricane season now represents a significant danger to vulnerable populations, the 1.7 million displaced and other homeless persons.

Children play near a garbage mound in one of the camps for people displaced by the earthquake. (Shaina Aber – Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)

Moreover, despite the introduction by the UN World Food Programme of “Food for Work” and “Cash for Work” initiatives, food insecurity is increasingly affecting the Haitian population, particularly at least two million earthquake survivors. This situation especially affects displaced persons, forced to live rough or in hellish provisional camps under constant threat of being evicted by landowners, and still waiting to be relocated by the Haitian authorities.

Inside these camps, hunger pushes young girls to turn to prostitution in exchange for a hot meal, and the number of reported cases of sexual violence and theft continues to rise. The fundamental rights of displaced populations, principally the most vulnerable groups, unable to gain access to education and healthcare services, are no longer respected.

In addition, the slow pace of the reconstruction process, in part due to the failure of donors to live up to commitments made at the international conference on Haiti in New York last March, is alarming. As UN Secretary General, Ban Ki moon told the 31st Assembly General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on July 4, “Promises will not feed the Haitian people and unrealized commitments will not provide housing to those in need.”

In the interim, national leaders and other Haitian political actors have shown more interest in the struggle for power than in tackling the country’s humanitarian situation and reconstruction process. The current administration, led by President René Préval, and the opposition parties are leading the country towards a political crisis over the organization of the next presidential, legislative and local elections on November 28.

Nevertheless, civil society and other organizations continue to demand their inclusion and participation in the reconstruction process, encouraging Haitian politicians to seek a consensual approach to the resolution of the current political impasse and proposing urgent, appropriate and concrete responses to the serious problems facing the country.

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